Doug Fister threw off flat ground this morning and reported no problems with his injured elbow, leaving the Nationals hopeful the right-hander will be able to open the season without missing any time.
“Threw fine, feels good,” manager Matt Williams told reporters in Viera following the Nats’ 3-2 exhibition win over the Yankees. “We’ll progress him to the next step and eventually get him back on a mound and back into a game. He felt good today.”
Fister hasn’t pitched since his 2-inning start against the Marlins on March 2, after which the veteran reported elbow soreness. According to the club, an MRI revealed no structural damage, only inflammation.
After taking several days off and getting anti-inflammatory treatment, Fister picked up a ball this morning for the first time and played catch on flat ground, the first step toward a return. Williams told reporters Fister will take Wednesday off, then throw again Thursday. If that goes well, he would advance to pitching off a bullpen mound, then return to game action.
The Nationals are being careful not to place any specific time frame on Fister’s full recovery but remain hopeful he’ll be able to start the regular season on time.
“I think he’ll be fine,” Williams told reporters. “He may not be able to get built up as much as the other guys. But nonetheless, he’ll be fine. He’ll be fine if we need him to start, if all goes to plan.”
Having pitched only two innings so far this spring, Fister seemingly would need to make at least three more exhibition starts before he’d be ready for actual game action, building up to a minimum of five innings and 75 pitches.
Based on the tentative plan Williams outlined today, Fister could conceivably start exhibition games on or around March 19, 24 and 29. That would line him up to start the fourth game of the regular season: April 4 against the Braves, the Nationals’ home opener.